The Weight of New York: How the Megacity’s Infrastructure is Causing Subsidence

In an article published in May in the journal Earth’s Future, researchers try to assess how the cumulative mass of the megacity’s infrastructure influences its subsidence, a phenomenon caused by soil erosion and human activity. Geologists have calculated that the million buildings, towers and skyscrapers in New York represent a total mass of 762 million tonnes, which exert extraordinary pressure on the soil. That is the equivalent of more than 75,000 Eiffel towers.

Rising water level

Under this force, the cultural and economic capital of the United States, populated by 8.5 million souls, is sinking an average of one to two millimeters per year. In some neighborhoods where buildings have been built on softer or artificial ground, subsidence could even reach 4.5 mm per year, according to the study. But building fewer concrete, glass and steel towers won’t change that, warns the study’s lead author, Tom Parsons. “The primary cause of the subsidence of New York and the East Coast is tectonic and cannot be stemmed”, explains this American geophysicist.

Manhattan Island is framed by the Atlantic Ocean, the East River and the Hudson River.


And this subsidence should accelerate the impact of rising waters caused by global warming and the melting of glaciers. According to the organization Sea Level, the water level in New York has risen 23 centimeters compared to 1950 and the municipality predicts that it will rise another 20 to 75 cm by 2050, or even 1, 8 m before 2100 and repeated storms. In response, the city made the fortification of its 836 kilometers of coastline a priority.

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2023-06-01 06:00:09
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